The Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech, believed to be the figure behind the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, made a failed attempt to flee the country on Wednesday. The Maltese armed forces intercepted him aboard his yacht at 5:30 a.m. as he was attempting to sail off from Portomaso. According to the Times of Malta, the vessel was headed for Italy, although that was most likely not its final intended destination.
Fenech, one of the most influential entrepreneurs on the island, is the owner of 17Black, a Dubai offshore company believed by investigators to be the financial instrument through which bribes were being funneled to some members of the Maltese Labor Party. In particular, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi are being investigated for corruption.
Furthermore, Fenech is also the general manager of Electrogas, a company which is managing the project of a power station in Malta and which Daphne was investigating before her murder.
The one who gave the investigators Fenech’s name was Melvin Theuma, a Maltese taxi driver arrested in an anti-money laundering operation on Nov. 14. Theuma is believed to have acted as an intermediary between Fenech and the assassins who murdered the journalist (Alfred De Giorgio, George De Giorgio and Vincent Muscat), who have been in prison awaiting trial since December 2017.
Theuma’s confession was a key break in the case, one which he was willing to offer only after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat guaranteed him in writing that he would get a presidential pardon. On Tuesday, the day before Theuma’s confession, Fenech resigned from his role on the board of Tumas Group Company Limited, which owns the business empire of the Fenech family, leaving everything in the hands of his brother Franco. The documents certifying this change were uploaded on Wednesday morning to the Malta Business Registry.
The Labor Prime Minister, as reported by the Times of Malta, has said that he will wait for the investigation to take its course before he will consider resigning, since for now there are “no indications” of a possible political involvement in Daphne’s assassination.
Corinne Vella, the sister of the murdered Maltese journalist, said that the arrests were an opportunity to finally get justice for Daphne’s murder: “We won’t stop until all those involved are behind bars, including those who protected #YorgenFenech to protect themselves,” she tweeted. In addition to the resignation of the Labor Prime Minister, Corinne is demanding that Mizzi and Schembri, the most prominent accused figures in this scandal, should be held in preventive detention. “If Joseph Muscat hadn’t protected Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi in 2016 Daphne would still be alive,” she added.
According to statistics published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in most cases, the murders of journalists remain unsolved. But this time, even if two years have already passed, there are high hopes that Daphne’s murderers will be prosecuted and the freedom of the press safeguarded, which is increasingly under threat across Europe.